Bulls battle for success

MEN’S BASKETBALL GAME TIMESyracuse (16-8, 6-5) at USF (10-14, 1-10)When: Tonight, 7Where: Sun DomeTV/Radio: Catch 47/1250 AM

It has been more than a month since the USF men’s basketball team began Big East play. It has also been more than a month since the Bulls won a game.

Tonight, the Bulls (10-14, 1-10) will take on the Syracuse Orange (16-8, 6-5) for the second time this season. The Bulls lost 89-77 at the Carrier Dome during the first meeting between the teams.

With a trip to the Big East Tournament seemingly lost for another season, USF coach Stan Heath wants the Bulls to fight for more than just victories.

“In no way do I ever want to compare being at war – and what our troops go through – to what we go through. I mean no disrespect in any way,” Heath said. “But every day I wake up and really, to me, it’s a war against mediocrity, against just accepting losses. So every day it’s a battle to make sure our team remains hungry, remains focused, and lays the foundation for what it takes to be a successful basketball program.”

The Bulls’ chances of making the tournament are nearing mathematical impossibility. They sit 4.5 games out of 12th place in the Big East – the last team of 16 in the conference to make the tournament – with just seven games to go.

Even though the Bulls are on a 10-game losing streak, they have been competitive in many of their games. USF has had double-digit leads in each of the last three games it’s played – including at No. 6 Georgetown and at DePaul.

“We have battled 90 (percent), 85 percent of the teams we’ve played, toe-to-toe,” Heath said. “We’ve led in games, we’ve had leads. Unfortunately, we don’t have a lot to show for it.”

USF continues to find reserves to allow starters to rest. The extended minutes have led to the Bulls giving up big scoring runs that allow teams to put games out of reach.

“The challenge for us right now is to learn how to finish games,” Heath said. “When guys are playing extended minutes, and you’re asking them to do more, it’s not easy.”

Freshman guard Dominique Jones and senior center Kentrell Gransberry see the majority of the minutes for the Bulls.

Jones plays an average of 34.1 minutes – of a possible 40 minutes – per game. Gransberry is third on the team, averaging 31.1 minutes per game.

The Bulls will aim to stop Syracuse freshman forward Donte Greene. In the first matchup this season, Greene scored 21 points for the Orange. On the season, he leads Syracuse with 17.9 points per game.

Heath – who went 9-19 during his first season at Arkansas – is taking the Bulls’ losing streak harder than anyone else.

“It hurts. It’s not something I enjoy,” Heath said. “It bothers me more now that the players have to go through this. I guess I feel bad for our guys.”